8 Top Reasons

Special Report
Branding Programs Fail
And How to Avoid Them
Wendy Matthews
[email protected]com
(408) 529-8707
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Programs
Fail And How to Avoid Them
Special Report
The term “branding” has become a popular way to describe many aspects of a company’s
position in the marketplace. In fact, it’s more qualitative and quantitative than you might
think. Branding, when done well, can carry a company through a rough patch, if
i they are
dealing with negative publicity. It’s the emotional bank account that’s been built up and says
“This is a temporary glitch. We’re still the same company you’ve already come to trust.”
Quantitatively, a good brand can even help a company prevail in a pricing situation. A solid
brand can make the difference between customers making a decision based on price alone
versus choosing to do business with a company he or she knows can be relied upon. In fact, a
strong brand
rand has the power to command a prem
ium price among customers and a premium
stock price among investors. It can even potentially boost earnings and cushion cyclical
A belief in the power of brands and brand management has spread far beyond the traditional
consumer-goods marketerss who invented the discipline. For companies in almost every
industry, brands are important in a way they never were before. Why? For one thing,
customers for everything from soda pop to software now have a staggering number of
choices. And the Internet cann bring the full array to any computer screen with a click of the
mouse. Without trusted brand names as touchstones, shopping for almost anything would be
overwhelming. Meanwhile, in a global economy, corporations must reach customers in
markets far from their
heir home base. A strong brand acts as an ambassador when companies
enter new markets or offer new products. It also shapes corporate strategy, helping to define
which initiatives fit within the brand concept and which do not.
Elements that Compose a Bran
A well-defined
defined brand is composed of many things including:
How well a customer is greeted on the phone
How well the customer service process handles complaints or issues
How others speak about your company
o This includes not just customers, but partners you may engage with and even
employees, as measured by the turnover rate
How easy it is to do business with you. This includes:
o Ease of finding information on your website
o Ease of understanding your pricing and financial practices
o Ease of returning product
o Ease of communicating with you
How often a customer is reminded of the value of your brand
All of the above speaks primarily to a customer’s perception of whether you value their
business and whether you will treat them with honesty and integrity. These last two qualities
are not something that you can just stick in a slogan. The perception of these qualities only
comes from a repeated experience. It’s this sense of trust and reliability that grows over time
and it needs to be guarded carefully.
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Program
Fail and How to Avoid Them
Special Report
A poorly
rly defined brand, including irregular treatment or lack of support of any of the qualities
you’ve established as part of your brand, can cause the trust to erode, and erode quickly. A
common mistake made in this regard is changing the value proposition wi
th each new
promotion. If you are unsure about your brand value proposition, others outside your
organization are bound to be un
sure as well. The result is that customers are likely to proceed
with caution in doing business with you until they do get that sense of comfort.
The Brand as an Asset
Constant vigilance is something those with highly valued reputations are willing to apply.
Because, once a good reputation is established, it’s far easier to maintain than it is to re-build;
and it’s less expensive. Brands are viewed as an intangible asset
asset.. The marketing of the brand
has a direct impact on shareholder value, as seen by the annual Best Global Brands report
from Interbrand, excerpted below. Branding is valued as a financial asset because it is
quantifiable. The table below shows how brand val
ue, in some cases, even exceeds a
company’s actual annual revenues.
(top 8 brands)
1) Coca-Cola
2) Apple
3) IBM
4) Google
Brand Value (2012)
($ in millions)
Annual Revenue (2012)
($ in millions)
5) Microsoft
6) GE
7) McDonalds
8) Intel
Source: InterBrand Best Global Brands 2012
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Programs
Fail And How to Avoid Them
Special Report
Top 8 Reasons Why Brands Fail
Here are the top 8 reasons why brands fail, or do not achieve the valuations that are possible
like the companies noted
oted above. The order of the reasons is not prioritized, but they each play
an important part in the success, or failure, of a branding campaign.
Reason #1-- Brand attributes are not well defined
What exactly does your brand represent? This question should be addressed at the highest
ranks of a company, not just in the Marketing Group. A branding statement should not just be
something generated as a trade show slogan and repurposed as “the brand.” The reason it
must be addressed by senior management is that they must support the brand proposition and
be its champion. Furthermore, senior management needs to model the behavior of what it
takes to protect a brand.
A brand is not just about the produ
cts sold, but it’s the trust, reliability, and repeatable success
a customer can count on by doing business with you.
Solution: Take the time to get customer input about what they value from what you offer.
The importance of getting actual data, not just management’s emotional response, or “ivory
tower view” about what a company can realisti
realistically “own” cannot be overstated. Customers
are your best gauge of what your true measure is in a market place.
Surveys, as simple as a web questionnaire and focus groups or as sophisticated as a global
assessment using a professional agency to gather data in a blind or semi
blind study, becomes
actionable data you can work with. Some companies rely upon selective data that comes from
a few customers. There is a grea
greatt deal more information out there if you take the time to find
it and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. The benefits are that your customers will feel like you
listened, and responded. The trust factor goes up immeasurably as a result.
Once you have done thee proper data gathering, the answers are almost always there. You just
have to be a good listener and be willing to hear the reality of what customers and your
external audience are saying. Investing the time and money at this stage saves you wasted
time and dollars down the line. This is tantamount to putting together a plan so you know
where you’re going and what you need to get there. You can guess and you can try numerous
things, but it will always take you longer and cost more to get to your end goal.
goal Be smart, use
your resources wisely and be a good listener.
Brand attributes can be things like:
A dedication to innovation
A concern for the environment
A commitment to the highest quality
A continuous advancement in technology
Enabling others to be more productive.
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Program
Fail and How to Avoid Them
Special Report
These attributes should be thought through by the management team, but finding out if
customers agree and see the same attributes you desire to be known for is more successful if
an outside party is used. The likelihood of getting more ho
nest and candid feedback goes up if
someone responding to a survey doesn’t feel like there is a direct connection to the company
for which the survey is being conducted.
Once the brand attributes have been defined, crafting a succinct message about the brand
attributes begins. This often takes several iterations until it feels right. The succinct statement
becomes your mantra and should be consistently applied across all marketing deliverables. A
brand needs to be defined and well communicated in every si
ngle touch point that reaches a
customer, prospect, analyst and employee, such as:
Web site
Print collateral
Ads (print and web)
Trade show signage
Building signage
Investor communications
Employee communications
Partner signage
Reason #2 – Inconsistent and infrequent messages
The most common mistake is to push a message to your customers you want them to believe
about you. This is often called chest beating. “We’re the worldwide leader in…” or “We are
the largest…” What’s lacking in these statements is wh
y this is good for the customer. Being
the biggest or a worldwide leader in something doesn’t say anything about why this is good
for anyone but you. It is also not possible to substantiate such a vague claim, and should be
avoided for legal reasons as well as credibility.
If a brand message doesn’t tie back to your value proposition, the message is confusing
and difficult to recall. Don’t make it hard on customers or prospects to recall your brand.
Your competitors will gladly
adly do that for you.
o If your value proposition is based on “customer service,” your brand messaging
should not highlight “cost savings,” or “lowest price.” Play to your strengths and
back them up with concrete proof points.
o Indiscriminate use of messaging that does not support your value proposition is a
waste of time and money. The more you stay “on message” the more of a threat
you are to competitors because you do not waver.
If messaging is used at random with no frequency of repetition, the message gets
g lost.
o Lack of frequency in reminding customers of your value proposition is a killer to
any brand campaign. Repetition is the most reliable way to remind others of how
you’re different.
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Programs
Fail And How to Avoid Them
Special Report
o Every day we’re bombarded with 5,000 or more messages in the form of
billboards, radio, television, Internet, newspapers, magazines, bus waiting zones,
bumper stickers, grocery carts, moving ads on cars, trains, busses, and even tattoos
on bald heads. The more you stick to your message and repeat it as many times as
ible in as many locations as possible, the easier it is going to be to recall what
you represent and have to offer.
Solution: Find ways to respond to customers’ worries, concerns or what they want to be
associated with, like improving the quality of life, meeting time-to-market
market goals or new and
innovative solutions.
Seek customer permission to own the attributes you claim and test the messages with them
before investing in any communications campaigns. Just because you say something
doesn’t mean customers
ustomers agree with your view of yourself. By including customers in your
thinking process, they’ll realize that you do value their opinion and are taking brand
management seriously. This kind of approach shows a thoughtful, well conceived idea.
Anyone would prefer to be associated with a quality program that has been researched,
evaluated and refined.
Concurrent with getting buy
in from customers about your value proposition is how often
you remind them of what you bring to the plate. Frequency, frequency
frequency,, frequency is the
most effective way to penetrate all the other noise in the marketplace. Since people get
their news from multiple sources, you should be spreading your outbound messages to as
many of these sources as your budget allows. Budget is a conc
ern for everyone. Even the
most successful companies do tests on how people respond to different mediums in order
to prioritize on the most cost effective. This will help hone your placements and will force
your media suppliers to provide the data to show how they are helping you reach your
target audience.
Depending on your goals and your budget, conduct periodic surveys or focus groups to
obtain objective data about what people honestly think about your company and keep your
ears open to ideas that help shape your ultimate branding statement. From these surveys,
look for trends and focus on the top three positive brand attributes people associate with
your company.
Understand that communicating a brand statement takes time and constant feedback to
mine if the message still works, is respected, and can be validated. Annual testing
and feedback is a good way to validate that you’re still on the right track and that
customers agree with what you’re doing, and how it’s being communicated.
Recognize thatt a brand takes time to build, and that to be successful, it must be earned.
Finally, stay the course. Don’t change your branding statements without validating your
perceptions with those of others.
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Program
Fail and How to Avoid Them
Special Report
Reason #3-- Forgot an essential audience
This is a very common mistake; forgetting to bring your employees in the loop of what
you’re doing from a branding standpoint.
o Employees are your ambassadors
your feet on the street. Arm them with easy to
remember value propositions so when someone asks ““what
what does your company
do?” they’re prepared and helping you to perpetuate your message.
Solution: In your quarterly or all
hands meetings, carve out some time on the agenda to
explain what you’re doing and let your employees help support the value propositions.
Provide updates on the kind of tractio
traction you’re getting with web click-throughs,
throughs, advertising
and press releases. Metrics are viewed at the top, but they’re important to the rest of the
organization too. Once employees feel like they’re part of the pprocess,
rocess, they can help carry the
brand message beyond all the targets that you normally would have to pay to reach. And,
employees will feel more like they’re part of a dynamic, well orchestrated branding activity.
This helps with recruiting and retaining tthe best talent available.
Reason #4 --Brand
and is not supported at the top and, therefore, not at the bottom
In companies that have a successful branding program, there is always someone in charge of
being its champion and its protector. It’s quite easy to let brands erode with slight changes,
but these changes are an indicator that you’re not sure yourself. If that’s the case, customers
lose interest and faith that you’re committed to what you said you were all about.
Worse yet, line managers have a hard time recalling the “flavor of the month” type of
branding statement, and therefore usually don’t bother to try. It behooves senior management
to model the way of supporting a brand in every aspect of their business. When employees see
management reinforcingg the brand, it becomes a trickle
trickle-down effect. It will never become a
trickle-up effect.
Solution: It’s actually much easier to stay on message than it is to recreate a new branding
message every quarter. Sometimes it seems hard to keep saying the same thing over and over,
but management must hold the line and champion the brand. That is something All State
Insurance discovered. Management and employees at All State were bored with saying
“You’re in good hands with All State.” They had tired of the messa
ge after almost 20 years.
The problem was it had become a statement so identified with All State, and the ease of
recalling how to finish the sentence of “You’re in good hands…” was extremely high. It
became obvious that to get rid of that phrase would be foolhardy. The brand recognition they
had invested in was so entrenched in the market they served that it would have hurt them to
abandon it. The compromise was that the slogan was expanded based on its original wording
and well known statement, and has no
w been turned into a question of “Are you in good
hands?” The association with “…good hands…” remains an asset.
The moral of this story is that those of us who work with a brand year after year may tire
of it, but if done right, it becomes so closely atta
ched to you and your value proposition
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Programs
Fail And How to Avoid Them
Special Report
that you can’t afford to tinker with it. If it’s doing the job, don’t dive in with feet first to
change it. Be glad that you’ve done something right and so memorable. Top-down
for protecting the brand becomes ingrained in all employees as well.
Reason #5 -- Brand is not associated with company’s stock valuation
Branding is often equated just with advertising, yet this is only one component in the
marketing mix that forms and supports the brand. What we know today is that a good brand is
directly connected to a company’s stock price. Brands are viewed by investors too, not just
customers. With the pervasiveness of the Internet chat rooms, easy access to analyst reports
and opinions, a strong brand can quantif
iably be tied to a company’s stock valuation.
A good brand analysis is detailed, highly analytical and customized to things like the
competitive environment, pricing and service, total customer value and other elements that
affect a brand. It is a worthwhile investment to establish a baseline. Once this baseline
analysis is performed, annual spot checks can be conducted with a lower investment to assess
how the needle has moved and in which direction. This enables companies to re-emphasize
certain messaging
essaging to target audiences and to address incorrect perceptions.
When top management understands how the strength of a brand can be measured in a
company’s stock price and the ability to sell at a premium, the right emphasis and support can
Solution: A thorough brand evaluation and equity analysis can be expensive. There are
several global and well know agencies that can conduct an audit to determine the true value of
your brand equity. If budget precludes you from making this sort of investm
ent, an annual
blind study could be conducted to reveal how much of a premium customers are willing to
pay for the quality and reliability a company delivers. The investment community should be
included in the survey, to understand how much of a premium th
ey put on the company’s
stock, based on its brand. Coupled with the “goodwill” asset on a balance sheet, you can make
a reasonable determination of your brand value.
Reason #6 -- Product brands are dominant over corporate brand
How many times have we thought
ought about whether our corporate brand and brand message are
noticeable? Dozens. Yet, it’s obvious that there are still those who want a product brand to
carry a message for the company brand. The problem is, this is usually a short-lived
effort and
companies often end-of-life
life a product after a few years on the market and introduce
something new. The corporate brand, on the other hand should remain unchanged.
Furthermore, the investment required to establish a product brand is quite large and often
rdable for many companies. The best case is for a company name brand to provide the
halo effect of a product brand; thus earning a double whammy
the company brand, which
already has a ®, followed by the product family name. The exception would be for consumer
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Program
Fail and How to Avoid Them
Special Report
products such as Proctor & Gamble household goods where the products are better known
than the corporate brand, but this is a deliberate strategy to which P&G has committed.
Of the many products in the market place, it’s the company brand that surviv
es. Examples are:
Apple Computer is the corporate brand, sub
brands include Macintosh, iPod or iPhone
Microsoft is the corporate brand, sub
brands include MS Office, or Windows
Cola is unusual, because it’s the product brand name and the corporate brand.
course, that works. In this case both the corporate and product brand names reinforce each
Solution: Do the homework first to make sure the emphasis is placed on the company
brand. If you’ve done this right, other branding will be easier, bu
butt you must give the priority
to the corporate brand first. Follow the guidelines below to determine what gets trademarked
and what doesn’t. If you have the luxury of investing significantly in product brands, at least
make sure the corporate brand holds a primary position in your overall messaging. The next
chart is the litmus test for how much emphasis should be place
placed on a product brand.
Following this rationale will help keep you focused on what’s most important and it becomes
a primer for new people joining
ining the company on what is valued most and where the company
is going to invest precious dollars and resources.
Hierarchy of Branding
(one brand that crosses many products)
Range Brand
(Sub-Groups of Family Brand)
Product or Service Brand
(Specific Product Names)
Applications, Features and Benefits
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Programs
Fail And How to Avoid Them
Special Report
Reason #7 -- Product naming has no architecture
As a company grows, product naming is usually one of the last concerns in product
development; and rightly so if it’s not ready for the market. However, more emphasis is often
placed on the internal code name for a product, than in the actual name used to market it
ernally. The lack of a product naming architecture creates the need for re
inventing the
wheel every time a new product comes out and invariably, the design or product development
team of technical experts comes up with a favorite they like and that become
becomess the name.
Few companies today have only their home-grown
grown products and product names. Growth
sometimes comes from mergers and acquisitions. With those acquisitions though come
products with a naming scheme that doesn’t fit within the acquiring company’s naming
architecture, if they even have one. Sometimes a company is acquired because of its
technology and products that have an established identity; sometimes it’s for the customer
base. In either case, an acquired company, unless they have a world
world-class brand worth
protecting, should be prepared to, over time, phase into the acquiring company’s naming
Without a clear naming convention, products become a patchwork quilt of names that have no
relation to each other. Worse, yet, customers don’t have a clear understanding of
o how the new
products fit into the portfolio of products offered. A naming convention, based on a clear
product architecture, makes it easy to understand how and where a product fits; it makes it
easy to follow the logic in the categories offered and it minimizes confusion on the part of the
The decision to trademark a product name can be an easy one. Sometimes a product
development group is fearful that a competitor may try to steal a name or create something so
similar that it takes an advantage away from the originator. Trademarks are expensive and
time consuming to obtain, especially since trademark searches need to be conducted by the
Legal team across the globe to make sure there are no infringements in the way. There are
easy ways to solve this problem, as discussed in the solution below.
Solution: Start out by understanding the current situation. Develop a matrix showing the
product families that are offered, and what the product names are within those families.
there is no rhyme or reason under the product family for product names, you’ve created a
situation that makes it difficult for customers to discern the differences in what you offer. The
more clues you provide in a product name, by making it des
criptive, rather than coined (a
made up name) or unrelated, the less confusing things will be. In the technology world,
especially where so many names sound alike, a simple descriptor following the full product
name, removes all doubt about what the produc
product is and even its function.
The process for how and when to trademark a product should be standardized. The concept is
beneficial on many levels: It leverages a corporate brand, minimizes trademark searches, and
reduces the amount of time spent on findin
finding new names. Here’s how it works:
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Program
Fail and How to Avoid Them
Special Report
By incorporating the corporate brand (company name) in each new product name, the need
for trade marking the product name can, in some cases, simply disappears. The reason is that
the company name already has a ®. You can leverage a halo effect of the ® by following it up
with the product name. If the product name is highly unique, a trademark search should be
done. If using a descriptive term, then it is generally safe to use with the corporate name. The
likelihood of a competitor
ompetitor using the same name as yours reduces significantly, because they
will not be able to use your company name in their product.
Coined names (making up names by combining others, i.e. Optimum Flow becoming
OptiFlo), are some of the most difficult tto
o brand because they lack context. OptiFlo could
mean many things to different people. If the product name becomes, for example in this
up company, the Xanity® OptiFlo, high
speed design process, the name is not only
protected by the ®, but is explana
explanatory and easily defended.
A basic naming convention should start with the company name, followed by the product
family name, then the specific product name, or series name/number. It looks something like
this, using Cisco as an example:
When followed, this can become the easiest way to name a product, saving you money on
trade marking and it provides a clean path of association within the product family group for
customers to easily identify.
Reason #8 -- Lack of investme
investment in a brand
Last, but certainly not least, iff the ground work has been done to define brand attributes and to
test positioning within a sub-set
set of customers, you’ve done most of the hard work. Don’t
waste it by letting a branding effort lie in a desk drawer. As discussed previously, the brand is
an asset, and should be supported and protected. Your brand will not communicate itself just
because you have internally agreed on what it represents. It requires nurturing, follow through
and adequate investment.
Solution: By maintaining branding standards and guidelines, together with a budget to
support it, the brand will go to work for you. Establishing a brand is a big investment in time,
money and resources. Once established, however, vigilance is the price of maintaining the
brand. Reserve adequate budget to keep your brand protected and well communicated.
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Programs
Fail And How to Avoid Them
Special Report
The basic tenets are:
Establishing a new brand is more expensive than maintaining one
Once established, keep the brand visible and supported like you would any other
investment in an asset
Remind people of your value through your brand attributes
Your competition will gladly and frequently look for ways to marginalize you…don’t help
them by not supporting your brand with an adequate budget, and someone who is the
champion of the brand.
The opportunity exists to improve brand awareness among customers and investors. A brand
requires support and investment. It should be treated and protected like any other intangible
asset.. It should also be measured and frequently analyzed to determine the need for course
corrections in order to keep the brand and its value propositions on track. Above all, it is
imperative that a brand strategy be supported at the top of the company with a commitment to
a long-term
term campaign that will yield positive results.
About the Author
Wendy Matthews has developed a successful career in
Marketing over the last 25 years for technology companies, with
special emphasis on corporate branding and integrated marketing
programs. She has held senior management roles in companies
like Marvell Semiconductor, Taiwan Semiconductor
Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Synopsys, LSI and Cisco.
In addition to her Marketing career, she is the author of,
Tweeners, a book that chronicles true stories of people who are
‘tween a career and retirement and have successfully made midmid
life career changes, and she sponsors the Tweenerworld website
Contact Wendy at [email protected]
Top 8 Reasons Branding
ing Program
Fail and How to Avoid Them